Middle age has lowered my body’s center of gravity and taken some of my self esteem with it. In fact, a simple incident at the grocery store confirmed how the mighty have fallen. By that I refer not only to my flesh, but also to my husband, because the entire incident revolved around him. He would insist it was not a reflection on me, but I didn’t need a full length mirror, to get the picture.
I was concentrating on various blends of tea when my husband suddenly crashed into me with our grocery cart. It was an accident, but it happened because, while I was weighing the merits of a zesty blend, he was checking out other spicy goods. Naturally he apologized profusely, but then he did something he never does – he sputtered.
“You see . . . no, I guess you didn’t see, but there was this young lady over there, standing by the mustard, and she was wearing this . . . I don’t know how to describe it, but it was clear down to . . . I mean . . . and it caught my attention for just a second too long, you know?”
I knew, but he couldn’t stop. He was in verbal free fall, over-explaining as he unconsciously sped past me, spun around and pointed the cart in the direction of her retreat. Oblivious to the fact that I was more interested in a tin of decaf Oolong, he persisted.
“I think you would have stared too,” he said. “In fact, I think she went that way. If we hurry, you can get a good glimpse of those, I mean, of her, and you’ll see . . . oops, sorry. I got you again, didn’t I?”
Right then, in the middle of all that tea, I woke up and smelled the coffee. Tabloid headlines blazed in my imagination. “OLD FART FLATTENS WIFE WITH CART WHILE EYEING YOUNG TART IN FOOD MART.”
I was mortified. Since my ego had taken a direct hit, I knew that was proof positive it had plunged, along with everything else, to my hips, which is where the cart got me. Still, I was a wee bit curious about the girl with the . . . you know. But I wasn’t going to admit it – not just then, and certainly not to him. I couldn’t have anyway, because he and our cart were already turning the corner at the far end of the aisle.
I started to follow him, if for no other reason than to watch him ogle certain goods while pretending to read the label on others. It’s an old trick with which I’m familiar because it’s what we do when we’re acting as if we don’t hear the other one suggesting we try some nutritious redwood bark biscuits.
I quickly lost interest, though. After a few steps I gave up the chase entirely when a carton of caramel corn hailed me from a shelf. Absolutely nothing can compete with butter glazed popcorn with macadamia nuts – not even a bedazzled husband on the loose in a public place.
Let the man charge up and down the aisles in search of nirvana – it would be good exercise, especially with the four bags of sugar and flour I had already put in the cart. That would make him pant a little, and possibly alert her to his approach. She might even recognize the sound if she makes a habit of over-amping vulnerable middle-agers.
Besides, I wasn’t afraid of the competition between myself and a nubile young goddess, even though I might as well be a pickle barrel by comparison. I knew he would choose me, when push came to shove. At our ages, there is more to marriage than meets eye level and, even though I’m a little short on sexy these days, I have a universal and timeless appeal . . . I’m the one who keeps our checkbook.